Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 7 September 2019


You have to admit, Reader, that the stuff that filled up the headlines this week was not exactly salutary—in fact, the effect was downright depressing. But it served to underline one important fact: The government’s drive against corruption—in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022, this drive is included in the Governance chapter—obviously had not reached (after three years of the Duterte administration, mind you) the Bureau of Corrections, which is under the Department of Justice (DOJ). Perhaps it has not reached the DOJ, either.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) StatDev, the Governance sector ranks second to the bottom in order of performance among all the sectors covered by the PDP, for the year 2018. The PSA also ranked it second to the bottom in 2017. The specific corruption indicators in that sector show a low likelihood of attaining the end-of-plan-targets of the PDP.

May I gratuitously suggest to the President to stop recycling his corrupt/accused-corrupt cronies/favored subordinates from one agency to another? That would be more effective in curbing corruption, to my way of thinking, than blaming the laws, or its author, or firing and then rehiring in some other position. Tsk.

But do not despair, Reader. The silver linings in these dark, poor governance clouds have been growing larger and larger, albeit at an excruciatingly slow pace. Have you forgotten all those political dynasty killers who emerged victorious in the elections less than four months ago? Three of them in Metro Manila—Isko Moreno, Francis Zamora and Vico Sotto. There’s no danger of dynasty from Isko; Zamora’s dad Ronnie will retire from politics in 2022; and Vico seems to be violently antidynasty, even if his first cousin is vice mayor of Quezon City and his uncle Tito is Senate president. There is hope.

And then there is the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI). Good heavens! Why should the NKTI be an inspiration for us? Well, for one, it is a nonfinancial GOCC (government-owned or -controlled corporation) that is actually making money, not sucking the government dry (think of the National Food Authority or National Power Corp., for example). And yet its reputation—it claims to be Asia’s leading kidney and transplant center—is rock solid. No shouts (or even murmurs) of corruption have been hurled against this.

What is remarkable about the NKTI is that the government’s subsidy in 2017, which has been decreasing over the years, covered only about 10 percent of its operating expenses. It not only services about 58,000 patients (and increasing) yearly, but it also trains medical and health personnel, and does research on top of all that. It now services 45,000 hemodialysis treatments and performs 275 transplant surgeries a year.

Fun fact: It was founded in 1981 by Claver Ramos, the dictator Marcos’ doctor. Marcos had kidney problems then (he finally died of complications from it), and his wife Imelda caused the NKTI to be built so her husband could have the best facilities in hand and wouldn’t have to go abroad for treatment (or so the rumor goes).

When Dr. Enrique Ona (you will remember him as the health secretary who was replaced unceremoniously by Janet Garin of Dengvaxia notoriety) took over as executive director in 1998, the NKTI was in “dire” straits, with half of its services offered having been discontinued. His leadership, combined with the staff’s efforts, turned the institution around, so that by early 2002, it had earned ISO certification.

Under Ona, the NKTI hospital went from a 50-bed to a 310-bed capacity (it now has 383 beds, thanks to the conversion of the Presidential Suite and the the Doctor’s Lounge, among others, into bed space). But what did Ona, and his successors, use for money to obtain the top-of-the-line equipment and machines that make it competitive with the best private hospitals?

The secret, trailblazing at the time (2002), has been the use of BOT (build, operate, transfer), now known as PPP (public-private partnership). But the NKTI has done the concept one better: There are no government guarantees.

The NKTI formula is quite straightforward: Good professional leadership, an excellent, committed staff, and no corruption. Let’s hear it for the NKTI